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Is my time on Facebook wasted?
2014-05-25: In the last 12 days I've used Facebook for 510 minutes. If that's how it is, I'll spend 1,292 minutes per month on it, or 21.5 hours. Or almost an hour a day.
I feel bad about that. I almost don't believe my own arguments why that's OK.
For one, I'm a social media consultant, I'm supposed to be on Facebook.
Two: a number of suppliers (and to a lesser extent, clients) are on there. Part of that time involved punting an article to a publisher, communicating with two design supplier/colleagues about client work, arranging three gigs in three pubs (I play in a band), arranging a 'save the world' meeting with some local designers & developers who I think it would be good for me to know better, answering a client query, testing a client's Facebook Page, arranging another gig (this time in a fairground) and punting a couple of festival gigs.
(The gig thing is done now, we're booked up.)
How much, of that hour a day is spent on vaguely business use, and how much is on 'pleasure'? And even use for 'pleasure' is also learning how to use Facebook well. So if something goes viral on Facebook, I'll look like a chump if I never saw it and never learned the lessons from it.
Anyway, you might as well say "stop checking your emails and you'll save all that time". (Checking emails: 10 minutes per day.)
How do I know that's how long I spend on Facebook? I'm using my own software Freelance Time Manager to work it out. Basically, it lets me enter client names, then projects/to-do's against them, and easily to log my time against those projects. Then, of course, I can report on it.
Of course, one has overheads, so I created the "my business" client, and one "project/to-do" is "check Facebook" and .. there it is, my second biggest time sink.
The problem is, what to do about it. Is it wrong that I spend that time? It's easy to say "well, an hour a day, if you're charging, say £35/hr, that's £9k per year you're wasting on Facebook". And yes, there's something there. Not all of it, though.
Oh. Hey. Another thing. That project, my business > check Facebook, it's actually "check Facebook et al". So that includes, well basically Twitter and Pinterest.
And here's the thing. Just like you make a coffee (10 minutes spent per day) or go for a smoking break or the water cooler or chat to your mate or get interrupted anyway .. and those are breaks. I'm a freelancer, I just sit here.
And we know from learning theory that the brain gets tired after 40 minutes and needs a break for everything to sink in.
But we also know from software development that people need to get 'in the zone'. That place where you've loaded everything about a task into your head, time and the outside world blur, and you're totally 'on'.
I do that kind of work, so I need to be 'on' when I need to be on, then I need to let my head relax when I need that. And once that's done, I can load up another client's business and do something for them.
Facebook is in my control. I live with my partner. You could make an argument that I should spend those downtime moments with her. I do, those are coffee moments and lunchtime. But if I pop upstairs to see her, maybe she's "in the zone" and doesn't want disturbing. Maybe she'll grab me by the ears and start to tell me stuff I need to listen to, when all I want to do is let my brain stop for a second. So, Facebook is in my control. I can do just enough of it for my needs. That sounds efficient to me.
So here are the things.
Firstly, I need to know how much of that time is actually Facebook. How much Twitter. How much Pinterest.
Freelance Time Manager will be adding a "what tool were you using?" field, so if I were ever to build a CV, I'd be able to say "I've 2,000 hours of PHP experience", for instance. And actually, I'm going to use that to build a market, so if anyone looks for a PHP developer, I'll pop up.
Actually, it's going to add a "what were you using it for" sort of field too. So, maybe it was 'marketing', or 'project management', 'client communications' or 'brain rest'. Anyway, in the end, I'll know what I actually use Facebook for.
Then I need to know which of my existing clients came from Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. How effective is my use of social media in terms of business generation just from getting to know people better? Freelance Time Manager will want to know where each of your clients came from, so it can track the effectiveness of your marketing.
Then I need to know that I can't plan for 8 hours of 'productive', goal-oriented work per day. Because I spend 1 hour a day on "Facebook, et al". So when I come up with my hourly rate, it will be great for Freelance Time Manager to show me exactly how many of my hours are chargeable.
When I was assessed for quality by a local business database (part of the old Business Link, I think), the expert who came to see me expected about 4 hours per day to be actually billable. The rest is .. nonsense. Making tea, having meetings, doing the accounts, running from office floods, that sort of thing.
And wouldn't it be nice if it turned out that I was able to bill 5 hours a day, and compared to other users of Freelance Time Manager I was doing alright?
The point. The whole point, of writing this, and of creating Freelance Time Manager is that I just don't know whether I'm wasting time on Facebook or whether it's an essential business tool. I look at the hour a day thing and my brain just stops. I need all that more data in order to know what's actually going on. Without being able to drill down and see what's actually happening, I'm stumped. I've been stumped for 30 years. Nowadays, I'm drilling and it feels good.

By John Allsopp
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